Lazio have to face Porto without key players

OPORTO (Portugal): Italian giants Lazio travel to Portugal's Atlantic coast today to tackle Porto in a UEFA Cup semi-final which striker Claudio Lopez has labelled “a fundamental match for the team and the fans”. 

His recipe to help Lazio get a positive result is straightforward: “As we did in (the previous rounds) we will also try to make our game prevail against Porto,” said the Argentinian. 

Lazio, finalists in the 1998 UEFA Cup, made light work of their quarter-final visit to Istanbul, beating Besiktas 2-1 to win 3-1 on aggregate. 

“(Our coach Roberto) Mancini has warned us. Porto like to have possession and they have some interesting players. Our concentration will have to be at its maximum.” 

Lazio's morale is high after Sunday's easy 3-0 win over Serie A minnows Como, but some crucial absentees in defence and midfield could complicate matters for Mancini. 

Central defender Jaap Stam is definitely out with a pulled muscle. Stam, 31, suffered the injury during Holland's 2-1 victory over Moldova in a Euro 2004 qualifier last week and will be out of action until May. 

Lazio doctors also initially feared bad news regarding Dejan Stankovic, who hurt a knee on Sunday. But the Serb midfielder was reported to be improving on Tuesday. 

In-form former Chievo striker Bernardo Corradi, is Cup-tied and cannot be fielded. 

Porto, champions of Europe in 1987, also netted a 3-0 score over Setubal, remaining in full command of their league with 72 points and a comfortable cushion of 13 points over runners-up Benfica. 

Mancini will be looking for inspiration from defender Paulo Ferrera and midfield ace Deco as both were rested at the weekend. – dpa 

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